The world of tiger conservation continues to throw up alarming news, with research last week suggesting that Russia’s tigers have suffered a serious decline in the last four years, underscored by further reports of a young male tiger found dead in the region with two bullets in his head. This is especially demoralising, given that the Siberian tiger had been a rare beacon of hope, following the recovery of a once precarious low population.
In Vietnam, also last week, two frozen tiger carcasses were found in a taxi. Whilst the discovery led to the arrest of four Vietnamese smugglers, the week’s tiger news highlights the seriousness of the threats faced by the species, and the lengths to which wildlife criminals will go to perpetuate illegal trade.
Perhaps most notably and worryingly, this news underlines the fragility of tiger populations. Even where there have been relative conservation successes – that must be lauded, learned from and replicated elsewhere – current tiger numbers are far from robust enough to withstand the many threats they continually face, or any relaxation in sustained conservation action. Globally, there may only be 3,000 wild tigers surviving in critically fragmented, vulnerable and increasingly unviable populations. When so few remain, the loss of every animal has a resonant, foreboding significance for the survival of the species.
That is why, as stated in the recent Press Release issued by the International Tiger Coalition of which Born Free is a constituent member, the call for concerted conservation strategy and immediate, committed action should be deafening. Next week, Born Free will be attending a meeting in Kathmandu, convened by the World Bank and involving delegations from 13 of the 14 tiger range states. Amidst the noise of political manoeuvring and diplomacy, Born Free, and our colleagues in the ITC, will be sure to make the voice of tiger conservation heard.